Commenting guidelines

This blog is not censored, but it is moderated. You can express any opinion you want as long as you do it respectfully and intelligently. I have long term readers who disagree with me profoundly, but they’re still here – nobody gets censored for their opinions, but I will moderate for behaviour.

I’m not going to attempt to police these too heavily, but here are a few general principles for discussion on this website. It’s not about discipline, it’s about aiding discussion and making sure that those with genuine comments get heard. Unlike rules, guidelines are aspirational, but if I’ve sent you a link to this page, it’s probably because I think you need to read one or more of them…

  1. Respect please. Let’s recognise that I will be wrong sometimes. You will be wrong sometimes. More often than not, both of us will have a part of the truth.
  2. Try and keep on the topic. Each post is up for discussion in itself. Unless I’m quoting them, I don’t need to be defending other people’s statements.
  3. Keep it short. One or two well argued points beats a dozen half-baked objections any day. If you want to number your points or put them in separate comments, that makes it easier for everyone to follow.
  4. Please avoid copied and pasted material. Drop a link. Regular commenters should hopefully be spared the indignity of being blocked as spam (If it does happen, I apologise. It’s Akismet and it’s nothing personal)
  5. Back up your comments. I’m a trained journalist and I’m committed to communicating the truth. I want this site to have integrity, and I invite you to hold me accountable to that. If you think  I’ve made an unsubstantiated remark, ask. In return, I will ask you to provide evidence for your own assertions.
  6. Choose your links well. It will not come as news to me that there are blog posts disagreeing with me. Linking to one will not constitute evidence that I’m wrong. If you think there’s material out there that refutes my argument, try and link to actual reports or papers. The more credible your source, the more seriously I will take you.
  7. Bring your own opinions. Debate on the internet can often go like this: a) read something you fundamentally disagree with or cannot accept. b) Open new tab. c) Google the opposite of what is being said. d) Paste link to the best sounding article on page one of the results. e) Add sarcastic remark, and click ‘submit’. I know this because I’ve caught myself doing it. We can all do better than that.
  8. Intelligent discussion. If a comment thread goes off the rails, I may delete individual comments to keep discussion on track. Argue intelligently and respectfully, and your comments will not be among them. Yes, that requires a judgement call on my part, but it’s my house and I’m comfortable with that. To keep threads useful for future readers, I may occasionally ask that tangential discussions get moved to email.
  9. No trolls. “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community … with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion” (wikipedia) I know it makes you feel big to say things on the internet that you wouldn’t ever dare to say in person, but you can’t do it here. I will ban you, and you can add it to the list of bans that you boast about on other forums.
  10. The last resort. Finally, I don’t believe in censorship, but I do reserve the right to end discussion on posts and to bar specific commenters. I promise not to do so without advance warning and a clear reason. You may get a two-day ban to cool off. I don’t want to do this and it doesn’t happen often (three people banned in 8 years so far) but it is sometimes necessary.

I’m aware that much of what I write about is controversial, even anathema to some. If what you read makes you angry, then wait, think, and come back later. Things don’t get taken down from the internet. Do you want it to record your anger, or your considered opinion? That’s advice for me too by the way.

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